Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Death by a thousand cuts is a painful way to go, but that's what road the MacEwan Griffins travelled down on Friday night.
A conceded offensive rebound here. A missed assignment there. A steal over here. A three-pointer clanging off the rim there.
The visiting Mount Royal University Cougars took full advantage, breaking open a game that was tied after the first quarter and romping to an 89-68 victory in Canada West men's basketball action at the Atkinson Gym.
"Credit to Mount Royal," said Griffins head coach Eric Magdanz. "They played consistently throughout the game and took advantage of times when we had letdowns or poor possessions. They translated them into points.
"I think the score doesn't totally reflect our level of play tonight, but when we consistently make mistakes, this is sort of the result."
MRU was ahead in almost every statistic. They were better from the three-point line (10/35 compared to 3/22 – an ice-cold mark for a Griffins team that shot 71 per cent in that category in the first half of a game against Saskatchewan last weekend).
The Cougars were also better in steals (8-4), turnovers (19-11 forced) and noticeably won the offensive rebounding battle (16-11).
"I thought our guys played hard tonight," said MRU head coach Marc Dobell. "One of our big men was out tonight (6-foot-7 Nick Tancon), so we were a little undermanned and undersized. So, we had to rebound as a group tonight. I thought our guys accepted that challenge and stepped up."
John Hegwood narrowly missed a double-double for the Cougars with 17 points and nine rebounds, adding two assists and three steals. MRU leading scorer Josh Ross also hit the 17-point mark, adding six boards, three helpers and two steals, while both Ryan Cunningham and Glen Yang hit double digits with 10 points each.
The Cougars were able to break open a tie game (14-14 after the first quarter) by passing quickly and often to open up shooting lanes.
"I think both teams struggled early on just trying to find any sort of rhythm," said Dobell. "It was a pretty sloppy first quarter. We started to move the ball a little bit better (after that), which gave us some easier looks and better opportunities at the offensive end of the floor.
"We made a couple of defensive changes, which I thought controlled their ball screen. That hurt us a little bit in the first quarter and has traditionally hurt us a lot (in the past). We're trying to find ways to be better at defending that."
The Griffins had four players in double digits – Deonte Doslov Doctor (13), Jake Notice (12), and both Adonis Monfort-Palomino and Ryan Coleman (11) – while leading scorer Ali Raza, held to his second-lowest offensive output of the season (7 points), did manage a team-leading 10 rebounds.
Ultimately, though, small misses all over the court doomed the Griffins gradually and thoroughly.
"It was a culmination of a number of things – us struggling to stay connected defensively and then that led to offensive rebounds for them," said Magdanz, who had a lengthy talk with his team in the room afterward. "They pressured us offensively and we weren't strong with the basketball to take advantage of it."
With the game out of hand late in the fourth quarter, Magdanz got some of his young reserves valuable minutes – putting promising youngsters Tre Ross and Abdullah Shittu on the floor.
"We're young," he explained. "We graduate one player this year. This entire season's all about learning. So, for us we need to stay consistent and try to give all of our players, including the young ones, an opportunity to develop."
With the result, MRU improves to 7-6, while MacEwan falls to 3-10. They'll meet again on Saturday (7 p.m., Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV).